Monday, October 15, 2012

Japan Day at Spalding High School

Hello Everyone,

Last Tuesday Hong and I had our official first proper kimono talk. Not that any other talks we gave up until now were less proper, but it was almost like all of them were just preparation for this one. Heck, my public speaking class that I took last year was preparation for this one! Why you might wonder? Because this was actually 6 kimono talks, one after another for the duration of the day.

Back in December of last year I got an email from one of the instructors at Spalding High School saying that they will be organizing a Japan Day in October 2012 for their 8th year students and that my name was given to her by Alice from Norwich Taiko Centre. Basically there will be six groups of around 25 students that will spend the whole day going through one event to another, with each event being 45 minutes long. They would have loved to have a kimono dressing there in addition to everything else that will be happening. After working out the details, we agreed that I can't realistically dress 25 people in kimono in 45 minutes, but I can do a kimono talk and dress one of the student in kimono. We also agreed that I will be bringing Hong with me to help me with the talks.

Fast forward almost a year later, and the day had finally came! I picked up Hong from Epping the day before, packed the suitcase and proceeded to have quite a huge scare around 10pm. I actually looked up where Spalding High School was located to put in my GPS! Turned out it wasn't in Norwich, like I convinced myself it was, but in Lincolnshire! I know, I know, how stupid of me! I was mentally preparing for a 3hrs drive one way, since I couldn't back out at this point, but turned out it was only 1.5 hours (vs 1 hour to Norwich). I must have looked it up right when I first got the email, otherwise I wouldn't have agreed to anything, and then promptly forgot about it and kept thinking it was in Norwich, since people who referred me are in Norwich. With my moment of some serious hyperventilating over, I went and tried to fall asleep.

Unfortunately morning came way too soon because I had to get up at 5:30am in order to be ready to leave at 7am. For once, my hair actually cooperated and I didn't have to spend a ridiculous amount of time straightening it. I woke Hong up, we had some breakfast, I got me a travel mug full of very strong coffee, and off we went. The drive was pretty uneventful but took us through some serious scenic country. By scenic country I mean fields and fields and farm animals. I've never seen roads so winding as on this drive and I live in England! I'm talking about almost 90 degrees bends in the road! I can't say I enjoyed that drive too much.

We arrived at 8:30am, only a little off thanks to my not so trusty GPS, but thankfully Hong's phone was able to get us to the place. We were shown to the room we were to occupy for the next 7 hours and told that we can re-arrange everything in any way we wanted. We ended up putting the chairs in a semi-circle, with my clothes rail to the side and table for all the non-hanging stuff to the other side. I got the spot in the middle. I even had a map and a board behind me, how cool was that? :P There was no reason to use the board, but I did use the map when someone asked me where Ukraine was located. :)

I decided to keep the talk very simple, since none of the girls knew anything about kimono and I didn't want to overwhelm them with all the terms. So I started with telling what kimono was, and how it used to be an everyday clothes but now it's mostly worn for special occasions in Japan. Don't worry, I did say that kimono is coming back in fashion, but not to the same extent as 100 years ago. Then I actually got to use some of my kids kimono stuff! I basically went through the events that kimono would be used for, starting with Shichi-Go-San and showing kimono for three year old girls, five year old boys and seven years old girls. Then I went on to show them the furisode, saying that's normally it is work at Coming of Age Ceremony, but it also can be worn by any unmarried girls.

Then I showed them two different kimono that adult women would wear, explaining about the sleeves length and different designs and seasons. Afterwords, I picked  my volunteer and proceeded to show everyone what goes into wearing kimono. I basically went item by item, starting with juban. This is where having Hong there was extremely helpful because she could dress the girl while I was talking, and then put away any stuff so I didn't have to get distracted. Seriously, without Hong there the whole talk wouldn't have gone as smooth as it went.

While Hong was dressing the girl I told everyone why men's and women's kimono are different length, showed some men's items for comparison and made jokes about how men's stuff are boring and we won't talk about them too much :) I should have mentioned earlier, but this was an all girls school, so there was really no point of talking a lot about men's stuff anyways. We went through the dressing, explaining about padding and dressing accessories. I think all the girls got a kick out of the padding talk, since I had 6 volunteers, each one of them either needed or didn't need padding. One girl's face literally fell when I said that the proper kimono shape is a tube with no curves, but then she completely lightened up when I said I could fix her curves "problem" with kimono.

For the final part of our talk I brought my wedding katsura for everyone to try one. It was actually a last minute decision as I only received it about a week ago, but I figured that if I can't dress everyone in kimono, at least everyone who wan'ts to could try the katsura on. It was also probably the best decision I've made in regards to the talk, because it was a huge success. Girls had a blast trying it on and taking photos, and all 6 teachers that were supervising also tried it on. I kept saying that I had more fun watching them all and it was absolutely true. I couldn't stop laughing for the whole time.

Overall it went really well and after the first talk was done, I didn't feel scared at all. As I said before, having Hong there was what made it happen, because she was taking care of all the background stuff while leaving me to talk. Because of that we didn't have any awkward pauses while dressing the girl, I didn't trip on any kimono stuff, and didn't have to worry about putting away the kimono. I also had a girl come up to me and say that my voice was really nice (awwww) and several others saying that the talk was very interesting. I don't know if I'm going to get any official feedback, but as of right now I did get an email saying that the whole day was a success and both students and teachers were giving very positive feedback to every event.

In the end, the whole talk worked out very well. I ended up doing 15 minutes of straight talking, then 15 minutes of dressing/talking (still more talking since Hong was doing most of the dressing) and last 15 minutes were taken up by the katsura craziness. Now that it's done, I feel like a huge weight is off my chest, because I was literally dreading this day for month! After being in front of people and talking for straight 6 hours, I think I can officially say that I can do public talks. My public speaking professor will be proud, which reminds me that I need to email her about this!

Now that this is over, I can start worrying about London EXPO in less than two weeks.

~ Lyuba

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